The species conservation project in Costa Rica gives you an opportunity to play your part in the survival of endangered sea turtle species by helping the animals to lay their eggs in a safe part of the beach and monitoring their clutches. You will act as a go-between between people and the natural environment, which will involve documenting the behaviour of these animals and their clutches. You can choose between the Montezuma or Samara sites. Experience all of the variety which Costa Rica has to offer and play an active role in helping endangered sea turtle species.
It is largely due to Costa Rica’s proactive and rigorous nature conservation programme that the country’s Caribbean and Pacific coastline, with its abundance of areas of natural beauty, continues to be a habitat of global significance for numerous animal and plant species. More than a quarter of the surface area is legally protected, so that there are many nature reserves and national parks in Costa Rica. Although it is no longer an insider tip, the country has not yet been spoilt by mass tourism and has therefore managed to retain its original character.
You will be picked up at Juan Santamaría airport in the capital San José and brought to a hostel in the city for an orientation meeting. You will then travel to your project using public transport. Your travel and the nights/nights in the hostel will be organised by the team in Costa Rica. The cost of transportation (additional cost for travel: $30) and accommodation ($15 per night) must be paid by each volunteer. The return journey can also be organised by the local team in return for a small fee. If you want to take part in both projects, you can switch site after a minimum stay of two weeks.
This voluntary project is devoted to protecting sea turtles at various locations throughout Costa Rica in order to maintain the Central American country’s natural biodiversity. As a volunteer, you will play an active role in these species conservation projects and work together with other volunteers from around the world to research and conserve these animals on the Pacific west coast of Costa Rica. As a voluntary helper, you can join the project at Buena Vista beach in the vicinity of Samara, or various beaches near Montezuma to experience species conservation. Both projects focus on protecting the animals which come to lay their eggs on the beach as well as the eggs themselves in the nests along the beaches. Because the animals return to the beach on which they were born to lay their own eggs, natural processes like coastal erosion or events such as floods following heavy rainfall pose a threat to the nests of these animals. The animals’ survival is also threatened by predators and urban expansion in coastal areas.
The second important aim is to acquire a better understanding of the animals themselves through detailed data collation which will facilitate the development and implementation of appropriate protective measures. The information obtained may answer basic questions about the animals’ life cycle: What turtle species are to be found on the beaches? Where and when do they nest? How often do the females lay nests in each season? What happens to the eggs and how many hatchlings are there in a clutch? The findings made can be used to plan tourist activities in the vicinity of the breeding grounds or enable artificial breeding grounds to be improvised at more suitable locations. Night patrols on the beach are often organised to observe and monitor the animals. The highlights of the year are of course the weeks when the eggs are laid and when the animals hatch out. Sea turtles always return to the beach where they were born to lay their eggs and that is why it is so important to protect these beaches and enforce rules to guarantee the harmonious coexistence of man and animal. This project is the ideal opportunity to learn about nature conservation work and make an active contribution to preserving Costa Rica’s natural habitat.
The research centre in the village of Montezuma is situated on the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, in the province of Puntarenas, and is part of the Tempisque Conservation Area, to which the Barra Honda, Las Baulas, Diriá and Palo Verde National Parks belong. This natural paradise is the ideal place for doing research on sea turtles, as the surrounding beaches are a vital natural habitat and breeding ground for various types of turtle, including the olive ridley turtle, the leatherback and the green sea turtle.
The Buena Vista turtle conservation project is located to the north of the country in the little town of Samara, at the northern end of the Nicoya Peninsula. Research concentrates on the idyllic Buena Vista Beach, just 2.5 km away, which is a popular nesting ground for turtles and home to three of the four species living in the Pacific. In some seasons more than 300 nests have been recorded.
You can apply for a placement in one of the projects the whole year round, as long as places are still available, or you can move on to another project after a period of at least two weeks. Regardless of which research centre you choose, you will be far away from mass tourism in an unspoilt natural environment which promises an unforgettable experience.
If you join the project in Montezuma, you will be staying in basic accommodation made up of two connected apartments. You and your group can relax in the large common area or on the balcony. You will also have access to a kitchen with dining area. Everybody helping on the project will sleep in bunk beds in three shared dormitories, and will have access to drinking water alongside bathrooms with showers, toilets and running water. The rustic accommodation at Buena Vista Beach near Samara also has a large common area and a kitchen with a dining area. You will sleep in bunk beds in a shared dormitory, and will have access to showers, toilets and drinking water.
Unlike the accommodation in Montezuma, the accommodation at Buena Vista Beach is not connected to the electricity grid, and therefore uses solar energy. Three typical Costa Rican meals are provided every day to keep you going. These meals mainly consist of rise, beans, salad, pasta, vegetables and a lot of fruit.
Everybody interested in volunteering abroad should be able to adjust to entirely unfamiliar standards of living in their future host country. Therefore, we would like to point out the importance of being flexible and adaptable regarding the accommodation and sanitary facilities provided by the project. Those are very basic and – depending on the project – cannot be compared to European standards. The equipment and furnishings are limited to a minimum; air conditioning is not available. Depending on your host country occasional power blackouts or water outages are quite common. Please contact us if you have further questions about your accommodation. We are pleased to provide you with comprehensive information since we would like you to feel entirely prepared for your time abroad.
It is difficult to say in advance just how much free time you will have during your volunteer period. The tasks and the time spent on the project depend on the season and the weather. You will work together with the team between 6 and 10 hours per day, so that there will be plenty of time left to explore the location and surroundings, or just relax in the house or on the beach.
In addition to making excursions into the exotic natural environment and neighbouring sandy beaches, you can also visit the restaurants, bars and cafes in the tourist village of Montezuma and enjoy the relaxed feel of this small town. If you decide to join the project at Buena Vista Beach, you can visit the nearby tourist location of Samara or the city of Nicoya, which is slightly further away. You will also be able to visit some nature conservation areas near both projects to investigate fascinating forests, explore complex cave systems and watch turtles as they lay their eggs.
Sea turtles are found in tropical and subtropical seas across the world. Their fins make them perfectly suited for life in water. However, because they are descended from land turtles, they have to come on land to lay their eggs. To do this, they dig deep holes on the beach before laying up to 100 eggs in them. Their eggs are then incubated by the heat of the sun. Ultimately, only 1 out of a 1000 newborns will reach the age at which they can reproduce. Because of this low fertility rate and the additional threat posed by a loss of habitat, pollution, fishing and illegal egg gathering, it is particularly important to monitor clutches and register as many animals as possible to ensure that sea turtles breed successfully.